Warfield v. Adams, No. IP-83-294-C.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Indiana)
Citation582 F. Supp. 111
Decision Date05 March 1984
PartiesEula F. WARFIELD, Plaintiff, v. Dr. James A. ADAMS, Superintendent of the Board of School Commissioners of the City of Indianapolis, The Board of School Commissioners of the City of Indianapolis, and Richard W. Guthrie, Hazel Stewart, David W. Bowell, Mary E. Busch, Lillian M. Davis, Andre B. Lacy, and Paul E. Neal, as Members of the Board of School Commissioners of the City of Indianapolis, Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. IP-83-294-C.

582 F. Supp. 111

Eula F. WARFIELD, Plaintiff,
v.
Dr. James A. ADAMS, Superintendent of the Board of School Commissioners of the City of Indianapolis, The Board of School Commissioners of the City of Indianapolis, and Richard W. Guthrie, Hazel Stewart, David W. Bowell, Mary E. Busch, Lillian M. Davis, Andre B. Lacy, and Paul E. Neal, as Members of the Board of School Commissioners of the City of Indianapolis, Defendants.

No. IP-83-294-C.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division.

March 5, 1984.


582 F. Supp. 112
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
582 F. Supp. 113
John D. Moss, Indianapolis, Ind., for plaintiff

Susan Tabler, Indianapolis, Ind., for defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

ALLEN SHARP, Chief Judge*.

This case was originally filed on March 3, 1983, and is presently before the court on cross-motions for summary judgment.1 For reasons set forth below, summary judgment as to plaintiff's federal claims is granted in favor of the defendants, and the remaining state law pendent claims are dismissed without prejudice. To the extent not already done so, all depositions are ordered published.

I.

The general underlying facts in this case are not in dispute. The plaintiff, a black female, was first employed by the Indianapolis Public School (IPS) system as an elementary school principal in 1969, after serving several years as a teacher and consultant with the IPS system. Except for a relatively short period of time during 1979-1980, when she requested and was granted a leave of absence, plaintiff remained in her capacity as an elementary school principal in the IPS system until August of 1982, when she was demoted to the position of first grade teacher.2 The vacancy thereby created at plaintiff's school (number 74) was filled by transferring the principal from School Number 46, Roseanna Johnson, also a black female, to School Number 74. Mrs. Johnson's slot at School Number 46 was in turn filled by promoting Lizzie Strange, another black female, to the position of principal.

According to the depositions, affidavits, and exhibits proffered by the defendants (and essentially uncontroverted by the plaintiff3), defendant Adams, in his capacity as Superintendent of the IPS system, met with the plaintiff on July 13, 1982, to discuss with her his concerns over an unfavorable assessment of School Number 74 made earlier in the year by an IPS Area Coordinator, Betty Chisley. At this meeting were three other IPS officials, including Ms. Chisley.

On July 15, 1982, Superintendent Adams notified the plaintiff by telephone of his intention to reassign her to a teaching role. This conversation was confirmed by letter dated July 16, 1982, from Superintendent Adams to the plaintiff, in which defendant Adams notified the plaintiff of her right to meet with both the Superintendent and the IPS system's governing body. Plaintiff requested

582 F. Supp. 114
such a meeting by letter dated July 19, 1982

On July 27, 1982, the plaintiff, accompanied by her husband, met with Superintendent Adams, Assistant Superintendent William G. Mahan, and Dr. Lorenza Dixon, an administrative assistant to Superintendent Adams. At the conclusion of this meeting, plaintiff asked that she be permitted to appear before the Board of School Commissioners of the Indianapolis Public Schools (Board).

Plaintiff's meeting with the Board, originally scheduled for August 3, 1982, was continued to August 16, 1982, per her own request. On August 16, 1982, the plaintiff appeared, represented by counsel. The day after this hearing, the Board adopted Superintendent Adams' recommendation that plaintiff's contract as principal not be renewed and that she be reassigned to a teaching position at another school. Plaintiff was so notified by letter dated August 18, 1982. This lawsuit resulted.

The gravamen of plaintiff's complaint is that (1) she was discriminatorily deprived of a property interest (her continued employment as a principal) without due process of law; and (2) the failure of the defendants to renew her annual contract as principal constituted a tortious breach of contract. More specifically, plaintiff set out her claims for relief in six counts on the following grounds:

Count I — Denial of procedural due process in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution of the United States;
Count II — Race discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981;
Count III — Race discrimination as a denial of equal protection under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and 42 U.S.C. § 1983;
Count IV — Breach of contract;
Count V — Tortious interference with a contractual relationship; and
Count VI — Wrongful (tortious) termination of a contract.

Because it is the conclusion of this court that plaintiff has stated no cognizable federal claims which would vest this court with federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (and, concomitantly, under the civil rights portion, 28 U.S.C. § 1343), and there is an absence of any independent jurisdictional bases for the remaining state law claims, the putative federal claims advanced in the first three counts will be addressed first.

II.

In essence, plaintiff raises two federal claims: (1) a denial of due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States (Count I); and (2) race discrimination under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Counts II and III). Under the undisputed material facts in this case, neither of these claims satisfies the requisite legal elements of proof necessary to withstand summary judgment for defendants.

One uncontroverted material fact alone would appear to warrant summary judgment with respect to plaintiff's claims of denial of due process: the plaintiff's employment was not terminated. It is undisputed that plaintiff, who remains employed by IPS, was merely demoted from the position of principal to that of classroom teacher. Even plaintiff concedes that there are no disputed material facts with respect to the due process claim, i.e., plaintiff herself has moved for summary judgment on the due process claim.

The Supreme Court of the United States and the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit have made clear that personnel actions of a magnitude less than termination do not rise to a level worthy of consideration under the due process provisions of the Constitution of the United States.4 As the Supreme Court has

582 F. Supp. 115
noted, "the federal court is not the appropriate forum in which to review a multitude of personnel decisions that are made daily by public agencies." Bishop v. Wood, 426 U.S. 341, 349, 96 S.Ct. 2074, 2080, 48 L.Ed.2d 684 (1976). Consistent with this principle, the Seventh Circuit has adopted the position that where harm is financially measurable, absent discharge, a public employee has no "property interest" protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Brown v. Brienen, 722 F.2d 360 (7th Cir.1983). Furthermore, absent discharge a public employee does not have a "liberty interest" protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693, 96 S.Ct. 1155, 47 L.Ed.2d 405 (1976); Colaizzi v. Walker, 542 F.2d 969, 973 (7th Cir.1976), cert. denied, 430 U.S. 960, 97 S.Ct. 1610, 51 L.Ed.2d 811 (1977); Morris v. City of Kokomo, 178 Ind.App. 56, 62-63, 381 N.E.2d 510, 515-516 (1978)

The Seventh Circuit's position in a case of this sort is expressly set forth in Brown v. Brienen, supra. In the Brown case, as in this case, the plaintiffs raised an arguable breach-of-contract claim which could have been litigated in state court. Because of the carefully reasoned language in Brown, the salient aspects of the Seventh Circuit's opinion are set forth at length below:

... This appeal thus raises acutely the question whether 42 U.S.C. § 1983 displaces the whole of the state law of public contracts into the federal courts through the characterization of a breach of such a contract as a deprivation of property without due process of law, even though most such disputes have nothing to do with civil rights as ordinarily understood.
. . . . .
... In the cases where breach of contract has been equated with deprivation of property, the employee was discharged citations omitted.... It seems, then, that there is no rule that every breach of a public employment contract is a deprivation of property within the meaning of the due process clause. In deciding whether a particular breach should be deemed a deprivation of property we must bear in mind that the Fourteenth Amendment was not intended to shift the whole of the public law of the states into the federal courts. Most common law wrongs are not actionable under Section 1983, though by definition they involve the deprivation of a legally protected interest. citations omitted Only interests substantial enough to warrant the protection of federal law and federal courts are Fourteenth Amendment property interests.
Even so, Roth teaches that there is no deprivation of property under the Fourteenth Amendment when the employee has no interest protected by state law in his continued employment, and he would have no such interest if he were an employee-at-will. But an employee fired in breach of contract has been deprived of a legally protected interest that Hostrop v. Board of Junior College Dist. No. 515, 471 F.2d 488 (7th Cir.1972) and Vail hold to be property under the Fourteenth Amendment.
A breach of contract that does not terminate the employment relationship is different.... The Constitution must not be trivialized by being dragged into every personnel dispute in state and local government.
. . . . .
He (plaintiff's counsel) can seek either remedy in state court, and until he has done so and been turned down it is doubtful whether his clients can be said to have suffered a deprivation, implying a finality which the mere postponement of a claimed benefit does
...

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14 practice notes
  • Minority Police Officers v. City of South Bend, No. S 81-402
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • September 5, 1985
    ...order to prevail on a ? 1981 claim, the plaintiff must show that but for race, he would have been promoted, etc. See Warfield v. Adams, 582 F.Supp. 111, 118 C. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. ? 2000e et seq. Two of the plaintiffs in this consolidated case, James Earl Cl......
  • Lipsett v. University of Puerto Rico, No. Civ. 83-1516CC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • June 12, 1986
    ...civil rights case court rejected conclusory allegations as to knowledge of prison officials and dismissed summarily); Warfield v. Adams, 582 F.Supp. 111, 119 (S.D.Ind.1984) and cases cited at n. 11 (intent question in Title VII racial discrimination in employment case solved by summary judg......
  • Bailey v. Kirk, No. 82-1417
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • November 14, 1985
    ...property interest cognizable under Due Process Clause); but see Wargat v. Long, 590 F.Supp. 1213, 1215 (D.Conn.1984); Warfield v. Adams, 582 F.Supp. 111, 114 Therefore, plaintiff as a classified employee who could not be suspended from employment except for cause, had a property interest wh......
  • Vukadinovich v. Board of School Trustees, No. S90-14 (RLM).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • September 23, 1991
    ...comments, the defendants claim that Mr. Vukadinovich's state law claims of slander and defamation are barred. Warfield v. Adams, 582 F.Supp. 111 (S.D.Ind.1984). However, the defendants note that failure to serve a timely notice does not bar federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Felder v. C......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • Minority Police Officers v. City of South Bend, No. S 81-402
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • September 5, 1985
    ...order to prevail on a ? 1981 claim, the plaintiff must show that but for race, he would have been promoted, etc. See Warfield v. Adams, 582 F.Supp. 111, 118 C. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. ? 2000e et seq. Two of the plaintiffs in this consolidated case, James Earl Cl......
  • Lipsett v. University of Puerto Rico, No. Civ. 83-1516CC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • June 12, 1986
    ...civil rights case court rejected conclusory allegations as to knowledge of prison officials and dismissed summarily); Warfield v. Adams, 582 F.Supp. 111, 119 (S.D.Ind.1984) and cases cited at n. 11 (intent question in Title VII racial discrimination in employment case solved by summary judg......
  • Bailey v. Kirk, No. 82-1417
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • November 14, 1985
    ...property interest cognizable under Due Process Clause); but see Wargat v. Long, 590 F.Supp. 1213, 1215 (D.Conn.1984); Warfield v. Adams, 582 F.Supp. 111, 114 Therefore, plaintiff as a classified employee who could not be suspended from employment except for cause, had a property interest wh......
  • Vukadinovich v. Board of School Trustees, No. S90-14 (RLM).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • September 23, 1991
    ...comments, the defendants claim that Mr. Vukadinovich's state law claims of slander and defamation are barred. Warfield v. Adams, 582 F.Supp. 111 (S.D.Ind.1984). However, the defendants note that failure to serve a timely notice does not bar federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Felder v. C......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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